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Samhain is most popularly known by the name of Halloween. But it is considered as a day of Sabbath by Pagans and Wiccans. On this day they honor their ancestors. It is considered to be a good time to make contacts with the spirits of the dead in a seance. The reason is that Samhain is the time when the curtain between this world and the next is the thinnest. This Gaelic festival is held on 31st October–1st November. The name Samhain is derived from Old Irish which roughly means ‘summer’s end’.

History of Samhain

Samhain was the most important holiday of the Celtic year. Christian missionaries tried to change religious practices of the Celts, then Samhain is said to turn into Halloween. The Celt religious leaders branded the Christian missionaries as devil worshippers. But Christians succeeded in transforming pagan holidays. Pope Gregory I instructed his missionaries to use native peoples’ customs and beliefs instead of eliminating them. Church holy days were deliberately set to overlap with native holy days.
Samhain, highlighting on the supernatural, was absolutely pagan. Missionaries associated the earlier religion's deities with devil. Representing the rival religion, Druids were considered evil worshippers of demonic gods and spirits. The Celtic underworld inescapably became famous as the Christian Hell. The effects of this policy were to reduce but not entirely eliminate the beliefs in the traditional gods. Cohorts of the old religion were branded as witches. The Christian banquet of All Saints Day was meant to replace Samhain forever which never happened.

Festivals Related to Samhain

  • All Hallows’ Day
    The Romans acknowledged Samhain with their own banquet of the dead-the Lemuria. With the spread of Christianity, the festival in November (not the Roman festival) turned All Hallows’ Day on 1st November. It was followed by All Soul’s Day on 2nd November. Later, October 31st became famous as All Hallow’s Eve and the remnants festival committed to the dead ultimately morphed into Halloween.

  • Nos Galan Gaeaf
    Nos Galan Gaeaf is the Welsh equivalent of this holiday. As with Samhain, it marks the commencement of the dark half of the year and it formally begins at sunset on 31st October.

  • Allantide
    Allantide is the Cornish equivalent of Samhain. Allantide is known as Nos Calan Gwaf in the revived Cornish language.

  • Hop-tu-Naa
    The Manx celebrate Hop-tu-Naa on the original New Year’s Eve.
Samhain Rituals

Rituals of Samhain are-
  • Celebration of the End of the harvest
  • Honoring the ancestors
  • Hosting a dump supper
  • Celebrate the cycle of life and death
  • Samhain ritual for animals
  • Holding a Seance at Samhain
  • Ancestor meditation
  • Honoring God and Goddess at Samhain

Samhain has its ancient roots in Celtic polytheism and is said to be a harvest festival. Its link was with festivals celebrated around the same time in other Celtic cultures and its celebration continued in late medieval period. Its date made it related to All Saint’s Day and influenced modern festivity of Halloween.